Story + Photography by David D’Agostino
The Eric Byrd Trio brought a “Charlie Brown Christmas” to life in front of a sold-out crowd at the Hamilton DC. The show began with a screening of the cartoon classic before the trio took the stage with Byrd on piano, Bhagwan Khalsa on bass, and Alphonso Young, Jr. on drums. The group put their own spin on Vince Guaraldi’s music, playing all the songs from the soundtrack with some extended versions and tasteful improvisations added to the mix.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” was the first and best of around forty-five animated Peanuts specials and introduced a generation of kids and their families to jazz. Watching the show each Christmas became a tradition for millions of families across the country, as the first airing in 1965 was seen by more than half the viewing audience.
After the performance, Eric Byrd related how the live show became a tradition for his own family. The trio began playing together around 18 years ago. They originally played a few of Guaraldi’s tunes in their holiday shows. He credits Sandy Oxx, the former Executive Director of the Carroll County Arts Council with the idea to create a whole show with the Charlie Brown soundtrack. The first few years, they only played that show at the Carroll Theatre in Westminster, MD.
After that, the concept took off as more venues and shows were added, and the live show became a tradition for families around the DMV. Eric’s own family got involved around 10 years ago, when Eric felt that “Chistmas Time is Here” would come across better with a child vocalist. Eric’s son Jason took over the mic, went out on the road, and recorded the song for the trio’s 2009 album A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Jason eventually grew out of the role, and now mans the merchandise table for the trio. Luckily, there are two more sons to fill in. For the last two years, young Quintin Byrd sings “Christmas Time is Here” accompanied by his brother William on guitar. Quintin and William also showed off their dancing skills when the trio started up “Linus & Lucy”.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is an all ages show, and all ages were in attendance. Parents, their kids, and grandparents all enjoyed the performance in equal measure.